Friday, July 3, 2015

Will You Join Me in Praying for Our Leaders?

I use a Twitter client on my computers called TweetDeck. I recently discovered a feature where if you view someones profile card, there is a button for "@ Mentions" which allows you to see tweets that start off with their "@username". If you are unfamiliar with Twitter, this is usually the way to reply to someone directly. If you aren't following both the person who sent the tweet, and the person whose Twitter handle begins the tweet you normally will not see it (although some people will put a . before the Twitter handle, or perhaps stick the username further in the tweet so that it will show up to everyone who follows them).

I knew that many of our leaders such as Dr. Akin, Dr. Mohler, Dr. Russ Moore, SBC President Ronnie Floyd and others catch a lot flack on social media sometimes, and get hit with, even occasionally rude and confrontational tweets. Once I discovered this button, I would check it occasionally and I realized just how much these men get hit with every day. Although everyone doesn't interact with them negatively, I can't imagine what it might be like for them at certain times.

Earlier today, I saw another man I greatly respect, Dr. Bruce Ashford (Provost at SEBTS where I attend) deal with a situation on his Facebook page. It was just another example of how these men consistently put themselves out there, often for our sake. Please join me in praying for them often. Just like praying for our own pastors, we need to pray for these men who lead us, our denominations (notice the plural, as I am also very grateful from men from many denominations besides my own), our seminaries and other parachurch organizations.

Here are some passages that can help us pray.

Romans 12:2 
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
With Romans 12:2 we can pray that God will always be transforming the minds of our leaders, so that they will always be walking in His will and pleasing Him.

Isaiah 50:4-5
The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient
Nor did I turn back. 
With this passage from Isaiah, we can pray that our leaders will speak as God has instructed, sustaining the weary.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With this passage we can pray that the Lord will fill our leaders with His joy and peace, and that He will grow the trust our leaders have in Him and that our leaders will overflow with hope and peace.

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
This is a great prayer to ask God to equip those who lead us to do His will.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

More than One Option: The Importance of Considering an Old Earth

The following partially satisfies the requirements for Dr. Benjamin Quinn's Christian Theology I class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

More than One Option: The Importance of Considering an Old Earth

Introduction

For many Christians, the idea that the earth may be 4.54 billion years old, or that the universe is about 13.73 billion years old is a frightening notion. Many Christians have been taught their entire lives that the Bible teaches that the earth is approximately 6,000 years old, and to believe otherwise is unbiblical. Many Christian leaders have taught that there are two options: a young earth or atheism.

What will follow is a survey of current popular theories of creation. It will be shown that the view of an old earth is a scripturally sound option for evangelicals. Some of the ways that advocates of a young earth explain what is learned from science will be investigated, and the importance of natural revelation in understanding creationism will be considered. Next, some of the hermeneutical approaches that advocates of an old earth use to interpret the Biblical account of creation will be reviewed. Finally, and most importantly, it will be shown why it is critical for leaders in the local churches and Christian schools to be informed and willing to discuss and teach views other than Young Earth Creationism, even if they do not adhere to those views themselves.

Four Major Approaches to Creationism

There are four major approaches to the Biblical creation account represented in the evangelical Christian community today. The first, and likely most well known, is Young Earth Creationism (YEC). YEC teaches a literal account of six, twenty-four hour days in which God created the universe, approximately 6000 years ago.[1] Next is Old Earth Creationism (OEC). Those who hold to OEC accept scientific evidence of an ancient universe, and the big bang theory, but do not accept Darwinian evolution. Proponents of OEC hold to the belief that God created the universe in stages over a period of billions of years. There are various subcategories of OEC, which vary primarily in the hermeneutical approach to the meaning of the days in the Genesis creation account, but all agree that God miraculously created Adam and Eve 60 to 100 thousand years ago.[2] Next, those who hold to Evolutionary Creationism adhere not only to scientific evidence of an ancient universe, but also accept Darwinian evolution, meaning they believe that all life, including humans descended from a common ancestor. As a result of this, most who adhere to EC do not believe Adam and Eve to be literal persons. There are, however some more conservative thinkers in the EC movement that would affirm a historical Adam and Eve, but argue they were hominids that were selected by God to let them be the federal headship of the human race.[3] The fourth, and final group is the Intelligent Design (ID) movement. According to Ken Keathley, “ID proponents argue that an objective examination of the scientific evidence alone (without an appeal to the Genesis account) will lead an unbiased inquirer to the conclusion that design by an Intelligent Being (i.e., God) makes an inference to the best explanation.”[4] Moreover, ID advocates feel that the arguments around the age of the earth distract from the bigger discussion, and as a result one can find both YEC and OEC advocates within the ID movement.[5]

Young Earth Creationism and Science

One of the biggest challenges for those who adhere to a young earth is how to reconcile science to the Biblical account of creation. In some cases, an all out dismissal of scientific orthodoxy may take place. One example of someone who has a background in science yet still holds to a YEC position is Paul Garner. One of the ways in which Garner explains how what is observed in science (specifically in geology) can be reconciled to the YEC view of Genesis 1 and 2, is through the effects of the global flood. Garner’s theory is that the flood came about as a result of extreme plate tectonics. He believes in an original single continent, and he feels that it is possible that a catastrophic event—such as a comet or asteroid hitting the earth—could have set the plates in motion. This extreme continental drift along with other intense geologic activities would have caused the global flood, and also would explain how aquatic fossil deposits and oceanic sediment have been found very far inland.[6]

On the other hand, some who adhere to a young earth may reject scientific orthodoxy and interpret what science understands through the lens of a 6000 year old creation. Some believe that although the earth and the universe have the appearance of being very old, it is in fact all an illusion. In their view, God created the universe with the appearance of age. The earth, they say, was created with fossil records, sediment deposits and fossil fuels already intact and ready to be discovered. There are heavenly bodies that are so far away it would take thousands or millions of years for light to reach earth. They really are far away, but according to the appearance of age theory, the light has been visible from earth since the very beginning as God created shafts of light to earth.

Yet another theory is that the speed of light has decayed over time, and there are others who interpret Einstein’s theory of relativity in such a way that in an “ordinary day as measured on earth, billions of years worth of physical processes take place in the distant cosmos.”[7] William Dembski feels that each of these approaches is problematic. In regards to the appearance of age theory, he commends the approach as not being a flat contradiction, as “God in his omnipotence could presumably have done things that way.”[8] However, a world created with a fictitious history lends itself to what could be interpreted as a divine hoax—trickery unworthy of a holy God. Dembski goes on to explain: “if human astronomers see what appears to be a supernova exploding in a galaxy millions of light-years away, [that] approach means that no supernova ever exploded.”[9] This would mean that astronomy is not about seeing real stars and real events but rather seeing an illusion created by God. On this topic Hugh Ross writes, “God’s character must be kept in mind when developing a view on creation’s timing…[for] created things to show a deceptive appearance of age would violate God’s own stated character and purpose.”[10] It is important to have a high view of Scripture, but at the same time it is equally important to consider how God has revealed himself in the natural world.

God uses both Scripture and natural revelation to reveal his character and other truths. As the psalmist writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork (Psalm 19:1 [ESV]).” One must not forget that both Luther and Calvin considered Copernicus to be a heretic. Not many within orthodox Christianity today would hold to a geocentric view of the universe, even though that is perhaps the most literal reading of some passages of Scripture.[11] It is right to believe, for example that the sun and moon stood still in Joshua 10, however it is not right to hold a geocentric view as a result. There are some things one has to accept as fact, through faith in God’s ultimate omnipotent power.

Old Earth Creationism and Scripture

If it can be said that those who adhere to YEC could have trouble reconciling science to the Biblical account of creation, it could also be said that those who adhere to OEC could have trouble explaining the Biblical account while still adhering to a doctrine of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. There are five different theories within those who adhere to OEC, and each of these primarily differ based on hermeneutics: Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory, Framework Theory, Temple Inauguration Theory, and the Historical Creationism Theory.[12]

Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer presents a most unique interpretation: Historical Creationism. Sailhamer states that his goal is to “understand the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 as its original author intended it.”[13] Sailhamer looks at the Hebrew word reshit which is commonly translated as “beginning” in English translations, and emphasizes that the word has a very specific sense in scripture and “always refers to an extended, yet indeterminate duration of time—not a specific moment.”[14] Like the gap theorists, Sailhamer feels that there is no reason why “the beginning” could not have contained billions of years. Sailhamer also explores the meaning behind the Hebrew word eretz, as the “usual meaning for eretz is simply ‘the land’ and not ‘the earth’ as in most English translations.”[15] Therefore, Sailhamer associates this term with the Promised Land rather than the planet earth. In sum, the lengths to which Sailhamer explores the underlying text is commendable as is his understanding of the significance of the Promised Land as a critical part of God’s covenant with Abraham.

Another interesting theory for an old earth is the Framework Theory. Mark Ross calls the framework hypothesis “a view of Genesis 1:1-2:3 which claims that the Bible’s use of the seven-day week in it’s narration of the creation is a literary (theological) framework and is not intended to indicate the chronology or duration of the acts of creation.”[16] Thus, the literary framework does not focus on presenting a chronological sequential representation of the days of creation, but rather focuses on presenting a non-sequential topical representation. According to Keathley, there is a possibility that this approach “enables the reader to appreciate the real theological message of the passage.”[17] The framework is organized like this: days one, two and three are days of forming, and days four, five and six are days of filling, therefore creating a parallel construction.[18] In the sense in which it is used in Genesis 2:2, the Hebrew verb shavath means that God ceased His creative activity on the seventh day. God did not simply rest for 24 hours; God rested from his creative activities and that rest remains.[19] Although there is symmetry exhibited in the framework presented, the most natural reading of the text is a literal, chronological understanding of the events Moses writes about.

These are summations of just two of the OEC views, but all of the old earth theories are based on the Bible being the inerrant word of God, and the scientific evidence in nature being an accurate revelation from God. They all show that both the Bible and nature can agree. There are many things not specifically revealed in the Bible such as dinosaurs, other planets, or other galaxies. The Bible is selective in its account of God’s creative activities, yet reveals with absolute uncertainty what is most important about creation; God spoke, and all that was not God came into being.

Young Earth, Old Earth and Apologetics: Why does this Matter?

It is imperative for the leaders of local congregations, and administrators of Christian schools to understand and be able to speak to each view of creationism. It is also important for these same leaders to emphasize that these debates and theories are secondary to the Gospel. Much confusion has come from prominent leaders, some who have even written books with inaccurate, incomplete information about views other than YEC. There are some who misrepresent OEC to their audience as though it goes against the Gospel.[20] There are four things that should always be non-negotiable: God as creator, The Fall, Christ as Redeemer, and Christ’s return to establish the new heaven and new earth. Any theory considered should agree with those four and be in agreement with Scripture.

Take for example a young Christian who goes off to college, and for the first time deeply studies geology, physics, and biology. They may now have a great internal schism between their knowledge of spiritual things and their newfound scientific understanding. Unless they have been prepared, they may find that the scientific evidence is too great and may now view the Bible as a flawed book. They may suddenly sense that they have been mislead about creation and begin to doubt their faith. Not only have they only been taught one side of the creation debate, they have not been trained on how to handle their faith being challenged.

Therefore, it is vitally important for views other than YEC to be taught as viable options in a non-biased, well-rounded manner—something that is not commonly done in churches or Christian schools today. By equipping people—young and old—with knowledge, they are better equipped to approach Scripture prayerfully and form their own conclusions. They will also be better able to defend their own beliefs when others challenge them. Even if one does not hold to an old earth view, it is helpful in apologetic discussions and even personal evangelism to be able to answer questions about God’s creation when talking to un-churched lost people. In a secondary matter such as this, it is important to be able to respectfully consider biblically sound positions other than what one holds to personally.

The OEC position is in harmony with both Scripture and God’s natural revelation. While there are many good arguments for YEC, and many people have developed scientific theories based on observing the world around us, the OEC view stands firm as being consistently aligned with all of God’s revelation. In closing, there are two statements that no one can deny no matter what position he or she holds: The universe appears to be very old, and the universe appears to be very well designed.


[1] The leading representative group for YEC is the organization Answers in Genesis and more info is available on their website: http://www.answersingenesis.org.
[2] The leading representative group for OEC is the organization Reasons to Believe, and more information is available on their website: http://www.reasons.org.
[3] The leading representative group for EC is the organization BioLogos, and more information is available on their website: http://www.biologos.org.
[4] Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker, 40 Questions and Answers about Creation and Evolution, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014), 16-17.
[5] The leading representative group for ID is the Discovery Institute, and more info is available on their website: http://www.discovery.org.
[6] Much more information on this topic and other related topics is found in Paul Garner’s book, The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theories on a Biblical Foundation (Evangelical Press, 2009), specifically chapters 13-15. There is much more to his theories than extreme plate tectonics, but space limits discussion of these.
[7] D. Russell Humphreys, Starlight and Time: Solving the Puzzle of Distant Starlight in a Young Universe (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994), 37.
[8] William Dembski, The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 66.
[9] Ibid., 67.
[10] Hugh Ross, A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy, 1st Edition, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2004), 86
[11] See Joshua 10:12-14.
[12] There is not space to elaborate on each of these so only a couple will be highlighted, but chapters 11-15 in 40 Questions and Answers about Creation and Evolution by Keathley and Rooker cover each of these in great depth and detail.
[13] John Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account 2nd Edition (Colorado Springs: Dawson Media, 2011), Location 260 of 3348 Kindle.
[14] Ibid., Location 260.
[15] Sailhamer, Genesis Unbound, Location 505.
[16] Mark Ross, “The Framework Hypothesis: An Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Did God Create in Six Days? Ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and David W. Hall (Taylors, S.C.: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999), 113.
[17] Keathley, 40 Questions and Answers, 127
[18] See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Raids: Zondervan, 1994), 300-304
[19] See Psalm 95 and Hebrews 4
[20] For example, see the discussion in Chapter 2 of John MacArthur, The Battle for Beginning, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005).

Bibliography

Brand, Chad Owen "The Work of God: Creation and Providence" in A Theology for the Church. Edited by Daniel L. Akin, 67-101 Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007.

Dembski, William. The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World. Nashville, Tenn. : Milton Keynes, U.K: B&H Academic, 2009.

DeYoung, Donald. Thousands Not Billions: Challenging the Icon of Evolution, Questioning the Age of the Earth. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2005.

Garner, Paul, The New Creationism: Building Scientific Theory on a Biblical Foundation. Faverdale North, Darlington, England; Webster, N.Y.: Evangelical Press, 2009.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Humphreys, D. Russell. Starlight & Time. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1994.
Jordan, James B. Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis One. Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999.

Keathley, Kenneth, and Mark Rooker. 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2014.

Luther, Martin Luther’s Works. Vol 1. Lectures on Genesis. ed. Jaroslav Pelikan St. Louis: Concordia, 1958.

MacArthur, John F. The Battle for the Beginning. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005.

Morris, Henry M., and John D. Morris. Science, Scripture, and the Young Earth: An Answer to Current Arguments Against the Biblical Doctrine of Recent Creation. El Cajon, Calif: Institute for Creation Research, 1985.

Mortensen, Terry. 2007. "Jesus, evangelical scholars, and the age of the earth." Master's Seminary Journal 18, no. 1: 69-98. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed April 10, 2015).

Roberts, Michael. Evangelicals and Science. Annotated edition. Westport: Greenwood, 2008.

Ross, Mark “The Framework Hyphothesis: An Interpretation of Genesis 1:1-2:3,” in Did God Create in 6 Days? ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr and David W. Hall. Taylors, S.C.: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999.

Ross, Hugh. A Matter of Days: Resolving a Creation Controversy. 1st edition. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2004.

Ross, Hugh. The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Greatest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1995.

Sailhamer, John H. Genesis Unbound: A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account. 2nd edition. Colorado Springs: Dawson Media, 2011. Kindle

Schroeder, Gerald. Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science And The Bible. Reprint edition. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Young, Davis A. Christianity and the Age of the Earth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982.

———. John Calvin and the Natural World Lanham, MD: University Press, 2007

Young, Davis A., and Ralph F. Stearley. The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.

The following partially satisfies the requirements for Dr. Grant Taylor's New Testament Survey class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010. 295 pp. Reviewed by Jayson L. Rowe.

Dr. Charles E. Hill received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University and is currently Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Hill has extensive research interests in the Johannine Corpus, and has written extensively on several issues relating to the early church fathers, early Christian views on the end times, the canon of the New Testament, and the traditions of New Testament manuscripts. In addition to the work being reviewed here, he is the author of several books on the New Testament and Early Church including Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church and most recently The Early Text of the New Testament published in 2012 and co-edited with fellow RTS professor Michael J. Kruger.

In this work Hill presents his perspective on how and when the four-Gospel collection in the New Testament canon was formed. He writes in response to those who say the fourfold Gospel that became the canonical standard was only accepted as such at a later date. Moreover, these same scholars claim that the four canonical Gospels were simply four out of many Gospel accounts that were circulating during the time of the early church. Hill critically examines the scholarship that has been used to support and promote the popular narrative of how the church ended up with only four Gospels and also looks at the evidence more liberal scholars use to make their cases. Hill tests the major arguments from these scholars against the physical and historical evidence and also examines the writings of Irenaus, Clement of Rome, Papias and other historical figures to see how the Gospels were viewed in their day. Ultimately, Hill will be seeking the answer to the question: ‘Who chose the Gospels?’

In the introduction, Hill begins by quoting William Petersen, who claims that there was a “sea of multiple Gospels,” and also said that these “gospels were breeding like rabbits” (Hill, Who Chose the Gospels, p. 2). At the beginning of Chapter 1, Hill shows that Petersen was exaggerating a bit when he portrayed the number of Gospels, by showing that Petersen’s own research shows that the list of Gospels includes just nine other Gospels which might have sought to compete with the four (Hill, p. 7).

Next, Hill gives a detailed explanation of the papyrus discoveries and explains that the statistics of these discoveries are impartial. He points out how writers of the period could be accused of skewing numbers in favor of the four canonical Gospels, but shows that by looking at the random and impartial numbers of the papyri discoveries, it is clear that the canonical Gospels still outnumbered the non-canonical ones by about three to one (Hill, p. 21). Hill also explains that many of these discoveries are in Alexandria, in Egypt, which at the time was an area where many heretical forms of Christianity dominated. If there were any place where one would expect to find a high concentration of heterodox or non-canonical texts it would be Egypt. Remarkably, this is not the case and Hill shows that the non-canonical Gospels were still around a third as popular as the four canonical Gospels (Hill, pp. 24-25).

Hill then explains how Christians adopted the much less common codex for sacred writings very early on, and explains that all of the earliest known copies of the four canonical Gospels are found in codex form (Hill, p. 26). In addition, Hill demonstrates that out of the non-canonical Gospels found in codex form, they are all smaller, more compact codices while “most of the early papyrus copies of the canonical Gospels are from codices which were suitable for the purpose of public reading in churches, none of our surviving copies of the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Mary was” (Hill, p. 31).

Chapters 2 and 3 are devoted to defending Irenaeus. Hill’s argument is that, “by the time Irenaeus wrote around 180 AD, the fourfold Gospel was very well established” (Hill, p. 37). Hill contends that Irenaeus was not a pioneer of Gospel selection, but was simply following a tradition that had already been established since other writers of the second and third centuries, such as Hippolytus, Dionysius, Tertullian and others, also viewed only the four canonical Gospels as authoritative Scripture. Hill points out that a popular view with modern scholars is that “like an axe-happy frontiersman of bygone days, blind to ecological realities, Irenaeus destroyed a perfectly good stand of gospel trees in order to create his four-Gospel canon” (Hill, p. 42). In response to allegations that Irenaeus instructed Christians to destroy copies of the other Gospels, Hill asserts that neither Irenaeus’s church in Lyons nor the church in Rome “had anything resembling the kind of imperial power…to search out private copies of a detested book, seize them and destroy them” (Hill, p. 62).

Chapter 4 begins by stating, “if a four-Gospel canon was Irenaeus’s idea…it was an idea which caught on quickly” (Hill, p. 69). The use of the canonical Gospels is compared to the non-canonical Gospels in the writings of Clement of Alexandria. Hill reports that of the canonical Gospels, Clement refers to Matthew 757 times, Luke 402 times, John 331 times and Mark 182 times. The most referenced non-canonical Gospel is the Gospel of the Egyptians, which is only referenced 8 times. Referenced 3 times each are the Gospel to the Hebrews and the Traditions of Matthias. Furthermore, in the writings of Clement, there are no references to the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel, the Gospel of Judas, or the Gospel of Mary. Also, in the early to mid 190s, Clement refers to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as ‘the four Gospels that have been handed down to us’ in his treatise entitled Stromateis. The point made here is that by referring to only these four Gospels as being ‘handed down’ Clement sounds very much like Irenaeus who also spoke of the Gospels as being handed down from the apostles (Hill, pp. 72-73).

Next is a discussion of the writings of Serapion, the bishop of Antioch who had to deal with an issue regarding the Gospel of Peter. The congregation in Rhossus requested permission to read this Gospel in the church. At first, Serapion granted permission, but changed his mind after reading the work himself and seeing the heretical content it contained. Hill draws four conclusions from Serapion’s reaction to this work. First, Serapion knew of a category of books that were “received by tradition”, and the Gospel of Peter was not among them. Second, Serapion knew there had been books falsely attributed to the apostles of Jesus. Third, Serapion placed a high value on apostolic authority, and fourth, Serapion believes that apostolic authority belongs to certain books, which either the apostles wrote or had apostolic approval to be passed down (Hill, p.89).

Chapter 5 looks at three different ways of packaging the Gospels: harmonies, synopses and codices, explaining that works such as these would have shared the same aim of aiding Christian teachers who needed easier access to the Scriptures. These were not intended to be a single replacement of the four-Gospel canon, but were written to aid Christian teachers and are actually an indication of the authority of the four as Scripture.

Chapter 6 deals with the work of Justin Martyr and examines Justin’s references to the ‘Memoirs of the Apostles’, which are books that Justin knows as ‘Gospels’. It is pointed out, however, that many have observed that in Justin’s quotations of Jesus that they often are not reflective of a single one of the fourfold Gospels but rather look more like a harmonized version. Hill writes, “while it is evident that Justin…sometimes blended together or harmonized Jesus’s words, his ultimate authoritative source was what lay at the back of them” (Hill, p. 131). Hill also notes that in one place, Justin says ‘For the apostles, in the memoirs which have come about by their agency, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us’ and in another place Justin writes that the Gospels were composed by ‘Jesus’s apostles and their followers.’ Both of these statements lead to the conclusion that the Gospels which Justin is referring to, contain “at least two written by apostles and at least two by followers of apostles” (Hill, p.132). Hill resolves from the hints left behind by Justin in his work that the evidence likely proves that Justin had knowledge of the fourfold set of canonical Gospels, and that he regarded only these for as Scripture.

Chapter 7 looks at how early opponents of a proto-orthodox Christianity viewed the gospels. Hill looks at sources from Trypho, The Emperor and Senate, Crescens, and Celcus who according to Hill, Justin recruited “from the ranks of unbelievers” (Hill, p. 152). It is shown how Celcus, for example “was responding directly to the challenges posed in the writings of Justin” in his treatise against Christianity, True Logos, which was written sometime between 160 and 180 (Hill, p. 155). Hill writes that although it is not known for sure if Celsus “knew a definite fourfold Gospel collection…his use of the four Gospels in his broadside against Christianity is apparent” (Hill, p. 156-157). Therefore, even Celsus, an outsider to Christianity, regarded the fourfold Gospel as authentic Christian writings.
Chapter 8 examines other early sources such as The Apocryphon of James, The Epistle of the Apostles, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, and the writings of Marcion and Aristides. Hill argues that these early texts indicate the influence of the four-Gospel collection from both within and outside of the church (Hill, p. 182). In Chapter 9, Hill deals with the Epistle to Dognetus, the so-called Letter of Barnabas, writings of Polycarp and Ignatius, The Didache, and writings of Clement of Rome. In each of these cases, Hill notes that each one “knew of at least one of the four Gospels” (Hill, p. 203) Hill states that ultimately, the last word on the matter “is found…in the collective, public teaching of Jesus’ authorized apostles, who received this authority from Jesus to pass on to the church” (Hill, p. 206)

Chapter 10 focuses on Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis around A.D. 120. Hill shows that Papias “knew all four of our Gospels, for there are sound reasons for acknowledging his use of them in the fragments of his writings that have survived. This would make Papias the earliest first-hand source for a recognition of all for Gospels” (Hill, p. 222). Hill argues that Papias followed an earlier tradition and concludes that one cannot be sure how early this tradition goes, “but a reasonable assumption is that the information he derived from ‘the elder’ was learned sometime around the year 100 and in any case not many years thereafter” (Hill, pp.222-223).

The final chapter finally tackles the question posed in the title of the book: Who chose the Gospels? Hill writes, “In short, we have no evidence that the church ever sat down collectively or as individual churches and composed criteria for judging which Gospels (or other literature) it thought best suited its needs” (Hill, p. 231). Thus, the Scriptures proved themselves authoritative simply by being handed down from apostolic sources and by their unity in content and the message they delivered.
Hill did an excellent job of laying a solid foundation to help the reader understand various aspects of textual criticism. The information given about the papyrus discoveries, as well as the numbering system used to identify various papyri was helpful. It was also beneficial to see how the papyri discoveries do not support the claims that are being made by some scholars. The section that explains how Alexandria, which was an area where Gnostic Christianity was quite widespread, still had a higher ratio of discoveries supporting the popularity of the canonical fourfold Gospel collection was very supportive of his argument.

In Chapter 5, Hill builds on the information learned in the first chapter by explaining how the codex possibly became more popular than the scroll because of the ability to bind all four Gospels together. In this section it is explained how at some point in the second century, multiple Gospels started being bound together in a single codex. Hill states that while there have been several discoveries which show the four canonical Gospels bound together, there has yet to be a discovery where a non-canonical Gospel was bound together with one of the four Gospels (Hill, p. 116-117). While he does not say that only scriptural writings are bound in codex form, he does say that only the four canonical Gospels are found only in codex form, while some of the other Gospels were also found in scroll form. The explanation that the owners of these scrolls would not have viewed them as Scripture is helpful for his argument (Hill, pp. 27-28). The explanation of how writings considered authoritative as Scripture were mostly only found in the larger codices, which would have been suitable for public reading, as well as numbers cited from the writings of Clement were also helpful in establishing his case.

Throughout the book, church history and textual criticism are woven together in a captivating fashion. Hill does an exceptional job in attempting to defend Irenaus, who is not always easy to defend, and is not popular with many modern scholars. The manner in which Hill used the works of Irenaus’s contemporaries was most helpful in answering his thesis. Although the evidence presented in the first part of the book is very convincing and clear, in the second half, Hill’s arguments seem to become more abstract and speculative. One example of this is the section dealing with the work of Justin Martyr. Justin complicated matters by not specifically naming the Gospels to which he is referring as he writes, making Hill’s task more difficult and makes his arguments seem less cut and dry (Hill, p. 126). Although there is not as much evidence to work with, Hill does an admirable job in presenting his arguments and it was helpful for the reader to see how several historical figures from both inside and outside of the church viewed the Gospel collection.


Throughout the book, Hill tackles some very technical details. Although he is covering a vast array of historical details, he writes in such a way that the reader does not get bogged down. Hill’s style is engaging and easy to follow. Although the subject is academic in nature, this book could be easily accessible to a more popular audience with an interest in learning about how the New Testament canon came to be formed. The book is an excellent resource, and is worthwhile to recommend to anyone with a desire to dig deeper into the history of the church, the establishment of the canon or learn more about textual criticism in general.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Great opportunity for winning a Scholarship and Logos Software

Going to a Bible College is expensive. On top of that, finding a scholarship can be really difficult. That's why I was so excited to find the Bible College Scholarship website today. Not only are they giving away a $1,000.00 scholarship and a digital theological library, all I had to do to apply was watch a short video and answer a few questions! It took less than 15 minutes. What is best of all is that if you're in Bible College and apply for the Bible College Scholarship, and put my name as the person who referred you, if you win the scholarship, so do I! We could both get a $1,000.00 scholarship and digital theological library. So, do us both a favor and go apply for the Bible College Scholarship today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Five Links and a Question

I decided to try these link posts last month. It's been a little over a month, and I have tried to get one up most days. I did really good hitting every day for a while until school started back. My question to you all is this -- is it helpful? Are you all reading them? There were a couple of times I realized I had pasted the link incorrectly, and in one case even forgot to link to the intended posts, and nobody noticed (nobody left a comment or let me know on Twitter the links were broken).

I used to set up Buffer to send these same sort of links out via Twitter, but I started 'buffering' quotes when I started doing this.

I just want to make sure I'm not shooting links to the choir. My friend and fellow SEBTS student Spence Spencer does a similar kind of post, and I've noticed we've often collected the same links. Tim Challies also has a daily post with the same sort of links, so my question to you all --  do you read them, and are they helpful? Have I come across enough links that you haven't seen already? I don't want to clog your RSS feed or Twitter with useless info.

I'm really just curious. Please let me know. If I get no comments on this post, I will take it as a "no we aren't reading these and they aren't helpful." As always, thanks for reading!

Now, here are my five links for today:

First here are two posts about the movie "American Sniper". One from Miles Mullin: American Sniper, Blue Bible and another from Evan Lenow: Jesus and the American Sniper. They are both worth checking out!

Here is a great post from Spence Spencer on social media and the Christian which was sparked by conversations between Spence and Sam Morris, who is the social media guy here at SEBTS.

Next is a great post from Nathan Finn (Professor of Church History at SEBTS) on the Baptist Student Union and the Vietnam War.

Finally, this post show that re-reading doesn't usually help us learn, and gives 8 tips that will help us better retain information and study smarter.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Five Links I Have Enjoyed -- Jan 26, 2015

First, please read Nathan Finn's thoughts on the movie "Selma". "If we appeal piously to the gospel without committing ourselves to the hard work of authentic cross-cultural friendships and open dialogs, policy debates, social justice ministries, intentional outreach, and repentance, prayer and service to those in need, then our gospel is a slogan that deflects rather than a truth that transforms. There is no gospel when there is no change. “Selma” reminds me of how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go—how far I still need to go."

This was an interesting post from NPR about Iraqi Monks who are working little by little to preserve Iraq's Christian history.

In this post, SEBTS Ethics professor Mark Liederbach explores the question: "Using your political imagination, what would an ideal polity look like from a Christian perspective?"

I was at the blog of my friend Spence Spencer yesterday looking for a book review he had done recently that I wanted to re-read, and I came across this post he had written this past November on writing papers in Seminary. I wanted to share it here again for my fellow students. Read it now, and think about it as you are planning your papers for this semester. And, you should be planning your papers now. Make some appointments at the Writing Center now. Spence has a few roles here at SEBTS, and one of those is that of grader of papers, so give his thoughts some serious consideration!

And finally, America's best-selling cars and trucks are built on lies: The rise of fake engine noise.